Among all the quotes we attribute to Sarah Bernhardt, there is this one: “in a play, there is a beginning and an end. In the middle you fill the space.” Without subscribing to this assertion, it is undeniable that the introduction and the conclusion of your presentation are crucial. If the beginning is intended to establish the credibility of the speaker, and thus capture attention, the end will strongly influence the memory the audience will keep. However, when a presentation is inspiring and the key message is integrated into a compelling story, what a pity to conclude with a relieved “that’s it!” or a hesitant “are there any questions?”
As we have already explained, an effective presentation is primarily built to provide a solution to a problem your audience has. If they decide to adhere to your idea, and thus adopt it to understand, choose or decide, it is never satisfactory to conclude your speech with a “that’s it!” You might as well say “next!”
On the contrary, it is important for your audience to leave with the feeling that you are prepared: “To conclude, I’d like/ I ask you / I confirm that…” to enhance your credibility to carry, implement or stand by your idea.
The question and answer sessions are also an important time to make your presentation a defining moment for the audience. There is a misconception that if you give a satisfactory presentation there’s no reason to generate questions. However, research has shown that questions are in keeping with how interested the audience is in your remarks. Of course, there will always be the risk of awkward questions, but by neglecting this stage of interaction you also lose the opportunity to permanently anchor your idea onto those who are willing to follow you.
The steps for an effective conclusion can be considered as follows:
- Repeat your key idea by emphasizing what will change for those benefitting from its implementation,
- Thanking your audience for the attention paid to you can be a nice gesture provided you are sincere,
- Provide an end slide with the message you want anchored to your audience. It could be effective to formulate the message as a question that will trigger an interaction with the audience: “What if…”
- Finally, remember to always keep the end word for yourself. You never know in what direction a conversation can go and it’s important that the last trace of your presentation comes from you.
That’s it! Are there any questions?